How Small Accounting Firms Can Keep Up With Technology
by Mark Jensen, Nisivoccia LLP –
November 20, 2018
While outsiders may perceive accounting as a stagnant profession, the differences within the industry today compared to 50, 20, 10 or even five years ago are remarkable. The rise of technology has played a leading role in the reformation of the accounting profession.
Due to advances in technology, firms are able to provide more services to clients at a faster speed with more accuracy and efficiency. Smaller accounting firms that may feel overwhelmed by the ever-changing technology standards have several options to keep their firm on the leading edge.
Do Not Wait to Implement
Think of implementing new technology into your firm similarly to renovating your home. You have an idea of what you want the complete renovation to look like, but there are several steps to take before you have the finished product.
There are two ways you can go about modernizing: You can either fix, replace and upgrade everything in the house all at once — inevitably costing you a fortune and a feeling of overwhelming stress — or you can gradually make changes to your house over a period of time to spread out costs and focus on each project one by one.
The plan you decide to go with when renovating your home is up to you. But when it comes to executing and introducing new technology into your firm, it is best to go with the latter strategy. You should adapt to a culture of change and implement technologies throughout your firm incrementally as necessary. If you wait too long to upgrade existing technology or implement new technologies/processes, the cost you will incur to catch up will be significantly more than if you had remained current all along. Not only will costs increase, but confusion and dissatisfaction among your staff will begin to heighten during the implementation of new technologies being introduced to them all at once. Gradually incrementing changes as technology improves will avoid hefty overhaul costs and distraught employees, as well as develop a culture of change within your practice.
Form a Technology Committee
Depending on the number of partners at your firm, it may be overwhelming for one or two staff to convince a group of superiors why technological changes need to be made within the firm. Forming a Technology Committee consisting of a few tech-savvy partners, managers and staff may make presenting and approving/disapproving executive technological decisions more cohesive and efficient. Once a plan is created within the Technology Committee, it can then be presented by the group to the remaining partners.
Have a Seat at the Partner Table
It is crucial for a representative from the Technology Committee to have a seat and a voice at the table during executive meetings. This gives the committee a chance to present a road map for the firm, including updating the infrastructure, hardware, security and software, not only to conduct day-to-day business, but to ensure you are compliant with regulatory guidelines and protecting your clients’ data. Individually, partners may broadly understand technology and the security needed for your business but being a part of that group discussion is a chance for the team to learn about new technological advances, ask questions and then decide what is best for the firm.
Interact with Staff and Clients
Engage with your staff regularly and ask what may help them work more effectively and efficiently, whether they are in the field or in the office. The additional input you obtain from your staff will not only improve the efficiency of your processes but show the value of their employment. Also, keep in contact with clients frequently. This will lead you to develop better methods of obtaining client information electronically, as opposed to having clients send their information in the mail and your staff manually entering the data into your application(s). This will also increase efficiency and accuracy within your firm.
Become Part of a Networking Group
Joining a networking group comprised of other small firms is a great way to discuss and collaborate about modern technology within the industry. Groups such as NJCPA, AICPA, BKR International and CPA Firm Management Association present the opportunity for your organization to brainstorm the best technology for your organization through these networking groups. You can talk to other professionals and hear what their firms are implementing, compare it to what your organization is using and explore how different applications, processes and equipment are or are not working for your firm.
Build Relationships with Your Vendors
A great way to remain current with technology and cybersecurity is to develop relationships with your vendors. A strong relationship built on trust will certainly pay dividends in a variety of ways when implementing any technology. Be sure that the vendors you choose understand your practice. A vendor that will listen and understand your business, as opposed to just closing a sale, is a recipe for success in any implementation. There are plenty of reputable vendors willing to engage with your organization. It is also important to be sure that the vendor has security as a primary focus. Ask about redundancy, contingency plans and question if the company has undergone any type of Service Organization Controls (SOC) reporting. Utilizing an outside vendor’s services can assist in the protection and confidentiality of your information, as well as your most valuable asset — your clients’ sensitive data.
In today’s accounting world, we aim to be more efficient than ever before. To be a successful, competitive firm, it is crucial that you provide your staff with the most current tools to do their jobs and manage the day-to-day operations. Keeping abreast of technological trends will attract more staff and clients to your business, allowing continuous growth throughout your firm. By continuously implementing software, security and equipment upgrades, educating the executive team on the latest technology, interacting with staff and clients and joining a networking group, your firm will be able to stay on the leading edge.
Mark Jensen is the director of IT at Nisivoccia LLP. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 973-298-8500.
This article appeared in the November/December 2018 issue of New Jersey CPA magazine. Read the full issue.